Hunter plays through discomfort from wreck, saves Angels with catch

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) -- Torii Hunter's day started with a bump -- to his new Bentley. It ended with a catch -- a homer-saving grab with two outs in the ninth inning on a drive by Richie Sexson.

Hunter shrugged off the stiffness in his neck and back from the fender-bender on the way to the ballpark to make the catch that preserved the Los Angeles Angels' 5-4 win over the Seattle Mariners on Friday night.

"That was sweet, man," Hunter said. "You can't beat taking a home run away. That probably could have been the game-winner, so I'm pretty excited about that -- winning the game with my glove. Things started off pretty rough today and it was pretty frustrating, so I went out there and tried to take it out on them in the game."

Hunter also doubled his first three times up, driving in three runs with his first two-base hit about 5 hours after getting rear-ended by a driver talking on a hands-free cell phone. The seven-time Gold Glove winner was waiting at a stop light when the accident occurred. No one in either vehicle was seriously injured.

"I haven't had an accident in 15 years. Then I come to L.A.," said Hunter, who signed a five-year, $90 million contract with the Angels in November. "I tried to treat myself a couple of weeks ago, and look what happened. The air bags didn't even deploy. You know, I'm kind of disappointed that I got rear-ended in a Bentley, and they didn't deploy. I won't feel safe in that no more."

Sexson, who already had driven in four runs with a pair of homers against lefty Joe Saunders (3-0), hit a towering drive off Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez. Hunter, known for his home run-stealing catches, timed his leap at the wall perfectly and came down with the ball and a big smile.

"I think it was over the fence, but not by much," Hunter said. "He hit it pretty high. There was a little angle out there at the outfield fence, so you didn't know if you were going to hit that fence first before the ball got close to it. But I just tried to jump up and time it. If it was close, I was getting it."

Rodriguez, pitching for the fifth time in six days, barely earned his seventh save.

"That was the greatest catch I've ever seen," said Rodriguez, who has had only one clean ninth inning in his nine appearances. "It was a great experience for me to be a part of it. He saved me right there. That was an unbelievable catch. It doesn't surprise me because I've seen him do that on the highlights on TV."

Saunders allowed four runs and six hits over eight innings with two strikeouts and no walks. All of the runs against the left-hander came on Sexson's homers. Sexson came in batting .218 and left with his 24th multihomer game.

"I thought that I got enough of it," Sexson said. "It was going over the fence, that's the bottom line. The ball doesn't travel as well here at night, but it was going out. Torii, he's the best. You almost come to expect stuff like that from him."

R.A. Dickey (0-1) gave up singles to his first two batters before walking DH Vladimir Guerrero, who missed Thursday night's win over Kansas City because of a swollen right index finger. Hunter then lined a 1-2 pitch down the left-field line, continued to third on shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt's relay throw to the plate and tried to score when the ball got past catcher Kenji Johjima. But Dickey backed up the play and threw to Johjima for the tag on Hunter.

Hunter doubled his next time up, a slicing drive to right-center that grazed center fielder Ichiro Suzuki's glove as he attempted a diving catch. In the sixth, Hunter hit a drive to the fence in left-center to tie a franchise record for most doubles in a game. All of them came off Dickey's knuckleball, which the right-hander began throwing in 2005.

"They had a slogan over there with the Twins about knuckleballs: 'If it's high, let it fly. If it's low, let it go.' Kirby Puckett started that, and it stuck with me," Hunter said.

The two-time All-Star could have had four consecutive doubles had it not been for third baseman Adrian Beltre, who stretched toward the foul line to backhand Hunter's vicious line drive against Arthur Rhodes in the seventh.

Dickey making his first start in the majors since April 6, 2006, was charged with five runs and eight hits over six innings while filling in for the injured Erik Bedard.

Seattle reliever Sean Green faced three batters in the seventh, hitting two batters. Guerrero took one flush on the left side of the helmet as he went into a defensive crouch, but stayed in the game.

Game notes
After the game, the Angels placed 2B Howie Kendrick on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to April 14, because of a strained left hamstring and recalled SS Sean Rodriguez from Triple-A Salt Lake. ... Hunter was the first player to hit three doubles in a game for the Angels since June 27, 2005, when Juan Rivera did it at Texas. ... In his previous start in the big leagues with Texas, Dickey tied a modern-day major league record by surrendering six home runs in a 10-6 loss to Detroit. He was sent to the minors the next day. ... Saunders has pitched eight innings in three of his first four starts. His longest outing in 14 starts last season was 7 2-3 innings.